The partnership between Mauritania and the European Union is based on political dialogue, economic and trade relations, and cooperation covering many areas. 

Political Relations

Signatory countries to the Cotonou Agreement, on which relations between the EU and Mauritania are based, have pledged to respect certain conditions regarding human rights, governance and the rule of law. In this context, political dialogue meetings were carried out with the Mauritanian government, opposition parties and civil society. 

In November 2005, following the coup, progress made regarding democracy and the rule of law resulted in the decision to finance projects to support the transition process. It was also in this context that the 2006-2007 elections, observed by the EU, took place. 

In 2008, another coup saw the suspension on part of most of EU-Mauritania cooperation and related projects. This freeze on cooperation ended when the Dakar Agreement was signed in July 2009. This agreement established the basis for resolving the political crisis and returning to constitutional rule. 

From the Dakar Agreement, the Mauritanian government undertook a series of commitments to good governance regarding human rights, the participation of civil society, dialogue with the opposition and the opening up of audiovisual media. The full resumption of cooperation was effective from 2010. 

Economic Relations

Economic relations between Mauritania and the EU develop within the framework of the Cotonou Agreement. The European Development Fund (EDF) is the main financial tool and includes various instruments: 

  • Donations.
  • Risk capital.
  • Loans to the private sector. 

In 2014, the EU decided to allocate €195 million to Mauritania to enable the implementation of access projects in various areas. Thus, the EU is the first international donor in Mauritania. 

Each EDF is concluded for a multiannual period. The 10th EDF, which covered the 2008-2013 period, had a budget of €22.7 billion. The 11th EDF, with an amount of €195 million, covers the 2014-2020 period. 

Financing for the EDF is provided by the following budgetary instruments: 

  • The Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI).
  • The Instrument for Stability.
  • The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
  • The Humanitarian Aid Instrument. 

Trade Relations

Trade relations between Mauritania and the EU are regional and national

At the regional level, Mauritania is a signatory to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) binding it to the EU. These agreements provide a better link between trade and development.
At the national level, the EU launched the Trade and Private Sector Support Project (2011-2014) with Mauritania. The project, funded by the EU to the tune of EUR 5 million, aimed to help strengthen the competitiveness of the Mauritanian economy and facilitate its integration into the regional economy. It aimed to give Mauritania the tools it needed to take maximum advantage of the EU-West Africa EPA. The expected results of this project are:

  • Capacity building of organised structures involved in trade.
  • Development and promotion of trade, competitiveness and expansion.
  • Support for the upgrading and development of potential sectors/sectors.

Dialogue with Civil Society

One of the EU's objectives in Mauritania is to facilitate the emergence of an active and organised civil society. To this end, the EU encourages dialogue between institutions and citizens and invites non-State actors (NSAs) and the State to contribute their views to this dialogue. 

The 9th European Development Fund in Mauritania (2007-2010) made a specific intervention for NSAs possible thanks to the support programme for civil society and good governance (PASOC). 

Outside this programme, periodic and regular meetings are organised between civil society actors, human rights organisations and representatives of EU Member States in Mauritania. These meetings make it possible to: 

  • Take stock of the country's situation.
  • Define the needs and demands of local actors.
  • Maintain an ongoing and open dialogue about Mauritania's opportunities and challenges. 

Development Cooperation

Assistance provided by the European Commission to signatory countries to the Cotonou Agreement is in the form of funding tied to the European Development Fund (EDF). 

During the 9th EDF (2003-2007), more than €120 million were made available to Mauritania. These funds were primarily allocated to infrastructure projects: construction of the Rosso-Lexeiba and Kaédi-Gouraye roads is ongoing. 

With an amount of €56 million for Mauritania, the 10th EDF covers the 2008-2013 period. This new allocation was actualised by launching programmes to support trade and the private sector, and support for the implementation of projects resulting from Mauritanian-European cooperation. The Nouakchott Rosso road comes in addition to these two programmes. 

The 11th EDF, for an amount of €195 million to Mauritania, has been approved. It is intended to support the country in the areas of food security, the rule of law and health care. 

Projects financed by other EU resources complement these EDF amounts: 

  • Stabex funds finance the project to remove wrecks from the Bay of Nouadhibou. 
  • Sysmin funds help finance the Nouadhibou ore port.
  • And various other thematic budget lines (food security, local authorities and non-State actors, human rights, migration-asylum, short-term stability instrument). 

Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

30 years of fisheries and fisheries development 1987-2007

In the fisheries and maritime sector, relations between the European Union and Mauritania are old, rich and constantly evolving. They reflect human exchanges, commercial relations, the transfer of technical standards and good governance, and financial and technical support for sustainable development and fisheries.  

For several centuries, the wealth of the Mauritanian coastline’s fishing resource has attracted European fishermen and traders. The common interests of European fishermen, the construction of Europe and the growing demand for fish have encouraged European governments to unite to sign a partnership agreement with the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (RIM) in order to fish and go beyond a simple commercial and neighbourhood relationship to become sustainable strategic partners.  

In 2017, the European Union (EU) and RIM are reciprocally the largest partners in the fisheries sector. We are bound by a Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA 2006), which is fully within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and which is implemented under protocols. With a view to sustainability, the European Union shall negotiate, on the basis of the best available scientific advice, fishing opportunities taking into account the needs of the Mauritanian fleet and its own fleet in accordance with the principle of residual.  

The current protocol (2015-2019) allows European fishermen to fish 287050 tonnes of fish each year in different fisheries. In return for making part of its resources available, Mauritania receives an annual financial contribution from the EU (€57.5 million) and support for the fisheries sector (AS: €87.5 million between 2008 and 2019). In addition, the annual cost of catches to shipowners is EUR 37 million if the quotas are fully fished. In addition, 2% of pelagic catches (4950t/year) are remitted to the Société Nationale de Distribution du Poisson, which is responsible for providing them to the Mauritanian populations in need.  

From a commercial point of view, the first destination of the Mauritanian Fish Marketing Company’s frozen fish exports is the EU (approx. 40,000t for EUR 135M). This opening up to the Community market is possible in particular by the fruitful cooperation between the Mauritanian health inspectorate (ONISPA) and the EU food and veterinary quality services (DG SANTE and OAV). The export procedure also requires an effective mechanism of cooperation between the Port of Nouadhibou, the Coast Guard (inspection, catch statement), ONISPA and customs to tranship/land and export European catches from Nouadhibou and Nouakchott.  

Overall, fishing activities between Europe and Mauritania are the main source of foreign currency for this country in the Sahelian strip (apart from mining activities: iron, gold, copper). They generate intense human relations. About 60% of the sailors working on European ships are Mauritanians. European fishing activities in Mauritania represent a significant source of employment, both at sea and on land. This synergy is the result of sectoral support for the Naval Academy (secondary and higher technical training).  

The JPA also makes it possible to strengthen the sustainable governance of fisheries in Mauritania, in particular through cooperation between scientists within the framework of the Joint Scientific Committee. Furthermore, the Mauritanian authorities impose requirements of its fisheries' agreement with the European Union on other foreign fleets fishing in Mauritania (quotas, removal of industrial fleets from the artisanal fishing zone, landing/transhipment at Nouadhibou, embarkation of Mauritanian seamen, 2%, etc.). This PPA is also unique in that it helps to finance the monitoring and operation of marine protected areas (Banc d'Arguin and Diawling) thus participating in the conservation of the fisheries' resource. This funding is one of the tangible results of sectoral support (SA) in fisheries agreements since the first agreement signed in 1987. It represents a significant contribution to the development of the sector (artisanal, industrial, trade) and to its international credibility. The beneficiaries include the institutions in charge of fisheries monitoring, fisheries research, port infrastructure (Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, Tanit), training, health inspection, shipyards, the Banc d'Arguin National Park, the Diawling National Park and the BACOMAB Trust Fund.  

Sectoral support, resulting from the FPA, is not the only instrument that the European Union makes available to Mauritania to develop its fisheries sector. Indeed, the STABEX funds (€27 million), the European Development Fund funds (regional projects, support for civil society) and the Emergency Trust Fund for the Sahel countries (€24 million) are mobilised in a coherent and complementary manner.  

They support the implementation of the National Strategy for Responsible Management for the Sustainable Development of Fisheries and the Marine Economy, in line with European strategic objectives. The STABEX fund made it possible to free the access of the autonomous port of Nouadhibou from its wrecks, the regional projects support the health inspection (EDES), the regional management of the resource (GOWAMER) and the use of satellite images (MESA). The Trust Fund targets the creation of jobs and added value in small-scale fisheries.  

The civil society thematic line aims at strengthening and structuring small-scale fishing operators. In the private industrial sector, the European Investment Bank has successfully granted two loans to Mauritanian industrial flagships, namely MIP-Frigo in Nouakchott and SEPH in Nouadhibou.